Despite not directly qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, Mexico still has a second chance to qualify in a two game playoff against New Zealand.
They had a rather dismal qualifying campaign gathering 11 out of a possible 30 points. Mexico dropped valuable points at home against Jamaica, the United States, Costa Rica, and Honduras.
On the last day of qualifying they lost away to Costa Rica and nearly were eliminated from qualifying. Thankfully for “El Tri” arch rivals America scored two goals in injury time to send Panama crashing out of the qualifying campaign and assuring Mexico of the playoff spot.
But with the first leg of the playoffs less than a week away, it is another Mexico team that has stolen the spotlight throughout the country.
The 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup has finally come to its slow conclusion in the United Arab Emirates and the final featured Nigeria up against the 2011 Champions Mexico. Mexico's road to the final, two years ago, was very different than how they advanced this year.
First off, Mexico was lucky enough to have home field advantage. They rode the wave of support throughout the tournament and all the way to the final, where they beat Uruguay 2-0 and became the first nation to win a U17 World Cup in their own country.
In 2011, Mexico also didn't start off the tournament in such a terrible way. In their first game this year, Mexico took on the team they are playing in the final, Nigeria. The Nigerians dismantled Mexico 6-1 casting doubt on the Mexicans' qualification hopes.
But they rebounded and picked up a vital 3-1 win in their next group match against Iran. Then, the youngsters from Mexico were placed in a do-or-die match as they took on Sweden. After a stalemate for most of the game, striker Ulises Jaimes scored in the 86th minute to ensure Mexico would qualify for the next round.
In the Round of 16, Mexico squared off against Italy in Abu Dhabi. Club America striker and youth talent, Alejandro Diaz, scored first for the Mexicans to give them a 1-0 lead going into the half.
In the dying minutes of extra time, Ivan Ochoa added a second goal to give the Mexicans a 2-0 win and a date with Brazil in the quarterfinals. They were on a three-game winning streak and were looking to make it four in a row.
Brazil on the other hand, dominated the group stages and sent Russia home in the Round of 16 after they won 3-1.
Mexico struggled for the first 80 minutes as they only registered one shot on goal, and were faced with an onslaught of Brazilian pressure. It wasn't until Ivan Ochoa, the player who scored to seal the win versus Italy, scored a goal in the 80th minute.
The Mexicans were stunned five minutes later when Brazil tied it up. After a dull extra time, both teams were due to encounter penalties. After both teams converted there first two penalties, Captain Ulises Rivas stepped up to take his, but was stopped by Brazilian keeper Marcos.
Brazil had a chance to end the game as their fifth and final penalty taker Gabriel walked up to the spot. Gabriel took his penalty and aimed into the lower left corner, but thankfully for Mexico, keeper Raul Gudino was there for the save.
Brazil's first penalty scorer Mosquito was then feeling lucky and wanted to go again. He aimed his shot directly in the right corner and the ball was met by the outstretched arms of Gudino. With the score at 10-10 Alejandro Diaz, had the chance to send “El Tri” through to the semifinals. Diaz stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way, giving Mexico a dramatic win.
Mexico then took on Argentina in the semifinals. Ivan Ochoa set the bar extremely high as he scored a brace within the first 25 minutes of play. Mexico dominated the entire game and added a third when Marco Granados struck in the 86th minute to clinch a spot in the finals.
Mexico took on Nigeria on last Friday in the final and tried to avenge their 6-1 loss in group play. Sadly Mexico was defeated 3-0 by the Golden Eagles and finished in second place.
Mexico's strong attack force of Jaimes, Ochoa, Rivas and Diaz are ones to keep an eye out for the future.
Even if Mexico are to be stunned by New Zealand and fail to qualify, they can bank on talent for the years to come.
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